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With more than 170 attendees, University of Kentucky Information Technology Services CyberCon conference brought together University of Kentucky students, faculty, and staff, and cybersecurity professionals, to discuss the latest trends in cybersecurity and potential career opportunities within the ever-growing field.    

Attendees were welcomed with free pizza, t-shirts, and the opportunity to interact with ITS staff by participating in trivia and a networking session. Attendees also participated in escape rooms designed to teach participants more about cybersecurity. Several UK students were entered into drawings and received gift cards to Chick-fil-a, Starbucks, and Kroger.  

cat and wheel cybercon

Agents from the FBI and Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency discussed the latest threats, how their agencies tackle cybersecurity issues and what the agencies look for in potential employees.  

Colin Glover, cybersecurity coordinator with the Cybersecurity Infrastructure Security Agency, said being proactive and preventing cybersecurity incidents is a main focus of the agency.  

One of the biggest issues the agency sees is bad actors taking advantage of cybersecurity vulnerabilities like out-of-date browsers.  

“When your Chrome browser, your Firefox or Edge or whatever it may be says ‘update me now’ and you don’t want to deal with it, you ignore it. There’s a patch or a vulnerability that someone can take advantage of,” Glover said.  

Another current cybersecurity issue that federal agencies deal with frequently involves financial scams. Jared Wells with the FBI Cyber Squad said scams like these happen in Kentucky, too. Regardless of how cyber criminals might infiltrate your accounts or trick you into sending money, it’s important to input a complaint on immediately.  

“Even if it's a low-level thing that you don't think the Bureau will investigate because maybe your loss is only $2,000, maybe you didn't have a loss, but you thwarted it somehow. is the best way to get that info in,” Wells said.  

jackie and wheel

UK alumna Alex Keedy discussed her career path, women in cybersecurity and advice for women interested in pursuing a career in the field.  The final panel discussion wrapped up with ITS cybersecurity analysts, including an intern, CISA and the FBI. Panelists offered helpful advice for anyone looking for a career in cybersecurity.  

Although the field may seem male dominated, Jackie Campbell, an ITS cybersecurity analyst, offered advice for women contemplating a career in cybersecurity.  

“I have been so welcomed into this career and all of the people that I work with,” Campbell said. “And even if it's totally male dominated, and I'm the only female, I feel just as much a part of the team as they do.” 

Ayah Abdeldayem, a sophomore at UK majoring in computer sciences, agreed with Campbell that women interested in cybersecurity shouldn’t hesitate when considering a career in the field.       

“We have talked about impostor syndrome, where you may think that if you're not a male or you are not predominantly good at programming because you're not a male, that shouldn't stop you from continuously learning because you can do it.” 

Jason Wheat, a veteran, and cybersecurity engineer at UK, also encouraged people of color to consider careers in cybersecurity. 

“I found comfort in networking with a diverse group of people to find out what their experiences are. And that's what gave me encouragement, to kind of mitigate some of the imposter’s syndrome.” 

CyberCon 2023 Group

Attendees from the University of Kentucky checked in with ease thanks to Badger, a program designed to scan UK IDs. A single swipe captured the names and numbers of UK students and employees — making the check-in process quick. Enterprise Systems Associate Director Nick McClure and DevOps Intern Evey Wright wrote the code for the Badger program.  

After working on rolling out the mobile credential program, McClure said he wanted to use a similar process to track attendance.  

“We wanted a way to leverage something the university community already had, their badge or mobile credential, to track attendance. With Badger, our students, faculty, and staff could quickly swipe in and keep the lines moving,” McClure said. “This was a great project for Evey, and we plan to expand the tool for other needs within ITS.” 

tabling cybercon

The day’s events wrapped up with refreshments and the movie WarGames at the Worsham Theater.  

UK students who attended CyberCon or the conference also had the opportunity to earn money for their attendance by checking in with UK Invests. Plans are already underway for next year’s event.